The “youth bulge” explanation

From a post by Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna, an interesting thesis

German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn…The 63-year-old sociology professor at the University of Bremen published his findings in his sensational and politically incorrect book Söhne und Weltmacht: Terror im Aufstieg und Fall der Nationen [Sons and World Domination: Terror in the Rise and Fall of Nations], published in 2003. The book became widely known and discussed after the prominent German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk had characterised it as being as groundbreaking as Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Sloterdijk thought that the book might pave the way for a new realism within a field that might be labelled “Demographic Materialism”.

Heinsohn is not concerned with the absolute size of populations, but rather with the share of teenagers and young men. If this share becomes too big compared to the total population, we are facing a youth bulge. The problem starts when families begin to produce three, four or more sons. This will cause the sons to fight over access to the positions in society that give power and prestige. Then you will have a lot of boys and young men running around filled with aggression and uncontrollable hormones. And then we shall experience mass killings, until a sufficient number of young men have been eradicated to match society’s ability to provide positions for the survivors.

According to Heinsohn, 80 per cent of world history is about young men in nations with a surplus of sons, creating trouble. This trouble may take many forms — a increase in domestic crime, attempts at coups d’état, revolutions, riots and civil wars. Occasionally, the young commit genocide to secure for themselves the positions that belonged to those they killed. Finally, there is war to conquer new territory, killing the enemy population and replacing it with one’s own.

But, as Heinsohn emphasizes again and again, the unrest and the violent acts caused by youth bulges have nothing to do with famine or unemployment. In his book he describes it as follows: “The dynamic of a youth bulge — it cannot be emphasized too often — is not caused by a lack of food. A younger brother, who may be employed as a stable hand by the first-born son and who may be well fed and perhaps even fat, does not seek food but position, one that can guarantee him recognition, influence and dignity. Not the underweight but rather the potential losers or the déclassé are pushing forward” (p. 21).

In recent years the West has been facing a gigantic youth bulge in large parts of the Muslim world. This bulge is created by a Muslim population explosion. Over the course of just five generations (1900-2000) the population in the Muslim countries has grown from 150 million to 1 200 million — an increase of 800 per cent. As a comparison the population of China has grown from 400 million to 1 200 million (300 per cent). The population of India has risen from 250 million to 1000 million (400 per cent)….

“This brings me to something that I call ‘Demographic Capitulation’. It has a very simple definition: Take all the men aged 40-44 and compare them to the boys aged 0-4. Demographic capitulation is when you have 100 males aged 40-44 compared to less than 80 boys aged 0-4. In Germany the numbers are 100/50, in the Gaza Strip they are 100/464…

“Let us look at the small countries in Europe that were capable of conquering and colonising large parts of the world from around 1500, starting with Portugal and Spain. Our explanation is usually that there was a pressure on resources because of overpopulation. The opposite was the case. When Spain started its conquests in 1493 with Columbus’ second expedition, Spain had a population of six million, but in 1350 it had had nine million inhabitants. Spain was not overpopulated. There was, however, a sudden a growth in childbirths because in 1484 Pope Innocent VIII had decreed that birth control was punishable by death, which caused an immediate explosion in births. In the middle ages the average number of children per family was 2-3; now it was suddenly 6-7. That caused the median age in the population of six million to be 15, whereas the nine-million population of 1350 had had a median age between 28 and 30. So there was no lack of land or food. However, there was a sudden scarcity of positions. Previously there had been one or two boys in the family. One could take over the farm and the other might become a tenant somewhere else. Now you had three sons who had food but no positions, and these boys started the conquests and the colonising. It was quite telling that the Spaniards called then secundones, the second sons.”…

“When the time is ripe, new religious pamphlets and books will be written on the spot and in no time. From your holy books — the Koran, the Bible, The Communist Manifesto etc. — you take what fits your purpose. You know that you are going to use violence but want a justification. For you are a righteous person. But when the youth bulge is spent, the books that were distributed in millions of copies cannot even be sold in second-hand bookshops. Everybody knows that they are full of rubbish. But while the movement is on, these young men are impervious to arguments. So the false ideas do not arise from holy scripture. They are generated by the young men themselves because they need wrong ideas to justify their actions. Consequently you cannot stop them by explaining that their ideas are wrong. The movement is not created by wrong ideas. On the contrary, the wrong ideas are created by the movement. Islam does not create Islamism, young Muslims do.”

This calls to mind Spengler’s view that literacy and consequent falling birthrates, are issues of major importance in ultimately resolving this problem.

2 Responses to “The “youth bulge” explanation”

  1. gs Says:

    Googling “Gunnar Heinsohn” or going to his Wikipedia entry suggests, to this nonspecialist, a modus operandi appreciably different from exhaustive old-school German scholarship.

    The proposition that Young Turks seize on pretexts to challenge the established order is not an original one. To learn what Heinsohn adds, I’ll have to hope for an English translation of his book: my high school German is too many decades in the past.

    The Chinese traditionally prefer male children and have been preferentially aborting female fetuses. They do not have a critical demographic-capitulation ratio of fathers to sons, but afaik there is a significant gender imbalance in the younger generation. Will a fathers-sons imbalance and the Chinese gender imbalance have similar consequences? Apparently, per the post’s Gates of Vienna link, Heinsohn does not think so.

  2. Michael Kerjman Says:

    Luckily multi-linguistic, your respondent recalls works by a post-SU prominent scientist,
    Dr. L. Gumilev analysing the human history from a notion of an inextricable link between particular nation and natural environment this populous existing within.

    By deploying energy/entropy issues, Prof. G. Heinsohn’s conclusions seem to present a next step in a right direction of universal picture a real world presents practically.

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